There’s more to a warm up than just stretching. The most common warm up I’ve seen is a quick stretch of the legs and a jog in place, but is that effectively preparing your body for the work to come?
Warming up should include self myofascial release (SMR) along side dynamic stretches.
SMR is what takes place when you use a foam roller. This activates specific mechanoreceptors called golgi tendon organs that cue your muscle to relax.When rolling a muscle slowly roll until you find a tight spot and hold for 20-30 seconds. This amount of time allows the GTO to respond to the tension and relax the muscle.
Now that your muscles are relaxed, it’s time to actively warm them up! It’s important to use dynamic stretches in the beginning of your workout instead of static stretches. Because the goal of a warm up is to prepare the muscles for the work to come, you want to avoid lengthening them too much. Lengthened muscles will produce less force and you risk pulling a muscle. (Read more about the sliding filament theory and length-tension relationships!) A few examples of dynamic stretches include Frankenstein walks, butt kicks, gate openers, inchworms, walking lunges with torso rotation, and arm circles.
After completing the warm up, you’re ready to jump into your workout! But don’t forget the cool down! Too many people (even i’m guilty!) think the walk out of the gym to their car is an accepted cool down… think again! The cool down is where you correctively stretch your overactive muscles. Go ahead and grab that foam roller just like you did in the warm up and follow it up with static stretching. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
It may sound like a lot, but my warm up and cool down never exceed five minutes each. Proper stretching before and after exercise will dramatically improve your workouts and help prevent DOMS (my worst enemy). So take the time to warm up and cool down. It’s just as important as your workout! 🙂